Previous article in this series: April 15, 2008, p. 316.
The devilish strategy the Moabite King Balak used against Israel is revived with a vengeance, such a vengeance that a person is tempted to say, “Balak himself is alive again.” Thus: Balak Redivivus: “Balak, given a new life.” Unable to curse Israel through the mercenary prophet Balaam, King Balak exported waves of attractive women and caused Israel to fall into fornication, and thus under the severe judgment of God.
The renewed sexual assault against the church today is terrifyingly strong. The enemy knows that the sinful natures of God’s people are always susceptible to every temptation—especially this one.
Balak Redivivus assaults God’s people. The enemy has his eye on the church. Reformed Churches. Our Reformed Churches. The reader who does not believe this may want to confirm it by talking to almost any minister or elder who deals closely with the people of God. Or he can simply add one plus one: both the cunning of Satan and the current state of western culture. Does someone suppose that a Reformed believer’s nature is less corrupt and not inclined to sin so?
The church must speak about the assault, openly. The church must be unashamed to speak openly about it. Spouses, parents, single members, elders and pastors, need to talk, to plan defenses. The church father was right 500 years ago who complained that the people of God were ashamed to speak when there was no need for shame (“So much purer have our ears become than the mouth of the Holy Spirit” who spoke about sex); and unashamed when they ought to be ashamed.
Balak is not so easy to identify today as he might have been in the wilderness of Moab. Hidden away, he has recruited disciples like a terrorist, and has trained them well. It seems his “sleeper cells” are everywhere and awakening to his calls to attack.
They produce television programs and movies. They generate the evening sit-coms and celebrity “news” shows, the daytime talk shows, the “reality” TV shows, and even some TV contests, to say nothing of cable and satellite television. And they all are oozing with sex. The movies on the big screen that do not promote themselves with sex are scarce as hen’s teeth. Besides, the ratings (“G,” “PG-13,” “R,” etc.) become less restrictive. What was thought to be inappropriate for anyone 50 years ago is considered acceptable today for a thirteen(!) year old child—as long as he’s accompanied by a parent.
And much of the church hardly notices. It is distressing to me that World magazine, considered to be the evangelical voice in news magazines and appreciated by many Christians, every week reviews TV programs and movies—most of which have pornography (the portraying of sex)—without the slightest blush of shame, much less a warning: “Beware of Balak!” Often only the obligatory note,Rated “R” for sexual content, nudity, and extreme violence, or Rated “PG-13” for brief nudity and language, and then analysis of the acting and perhaps the “Christian message” in the show. These are promoted by World for entertainment and education. Of the church.
It is more distressing to hear that some Reformed parents allow their children to watch the movies, in some cases because “we aren’t convinced that drama and acting are evil.” Put aside the argument for drama for the moment, and save your children the misery of ruined marriages and miserable single life because they learned sex from Balak. To borrow Solomon’s language from Proverbs: You will mourn at the last when your children’s marriages fall apart, when their children are consumed by sexual lusts, and you will say, “How I hated the good instruction of the church, and my heart despised reproof. I have brought myself into such evil in the midst of the church.” May God spare us from this distress, so dishonoring to Him.
Aside from the television and movie screens, most effective has been the enemy’s use of the computer screen and Internet to tempt God’s people with free and easy pornography, thus to fall into fornication. Moabitish whores in every home. Instantly. Are most parents alert to the unbelievable filth available to their children, in seconds? I trust they are. I also trust that no parent is naÃ¯ve enough to allow unfiltered access to the Internet for the family, of any age. To allow it would be like our grandparents, 50 years ago, stocking the unlocked closet with filthy magazines, with the warning to their children as they left for the evening: “Now, no peeking in the closet.”
But what ought especially to gain our attention is the availability of the Internet for men at the workplace or wherever else they may have private access to the computer, like their home office.
Christianity Today magazine reported in March that men—married and single men—are those who are falling to this evil. Through this evil, they lose their honor, wealth, children, marriages (see my editorial of April 15). They become enslaved to sexual sins, such slaves that though they vow a thousand times to quit, they cannot. Worse, it seems at times, than the addiction to alcohol or methamphetamines, the addiction to sexual sin is powerful, and rampant.
In the churches. Respectable men. Leaders. Ministers, elders, deacons, school teachers and principals. They experience the misery of any other kind of addict. Many of them are unexposed, as yet… “Be sure your sin will find you out.” God sees to it.
God judges sexual sins. Often by allowing the addict to become known. The man who does not truly repent, turning from the sin (if necessary even by seeking the help of others to be freed from it), will be found out. “Because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).
When Israel received the Moabitish prostitutes and began worshiping their gods, the “anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (Num. 25:3). That anger manifested itself in a terrible plague that took the lives of twenty-four thousand Israelites.
I spoke of these judgments of God upon sexual sin in the last editorial.
But sexual sin itself may be God’s judgment upon other sin. Dreadful as it sounds, God may give a man over to sexual sins as judgments or chastisements for other sin.
This is the truth Paul teaches in Romans 1. Because a people reject God, willing to serve creatures more than the Creator, He “gives them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (or fitting); Being filled with all unrighteousness…” (v. 28). The first “unrighteousness” given as God’s judgment upon wicked men is fornication. Often, the only sin one considers in Romans 1is the vile sin of homosexuality. Included, however, is a list of others, with fornication at the head.
God judges sin with sin. He punishes rejection of Him by giving men over to foolish lusts.
Luther, speaking now to God’s people, warned about proud men in the churches:
So God comes and takes a hand in the matter and lets the proud spirit fall so hard and receive so severe a blow by frequently falling into adultery and at times doing worse things, that he must come to his senses and say: Be quiet, brother, and hold yourself; you are made of the same cloth of which he is made! Thus he then realizes that all of us are made of the same stuff and one mule should not venture to call another “sack bearer,” because we are all born of one flesh.
God punishes the sin of pride, specifically the sin of self-righteousness, by allowing men to fall into sexual sins. As God chastised King David’s pride by withholding the grace (see the Canons of Dordt, V. 4) that would have kept him from sin with Bathsheba, God chastises men’s proud sense of self-importance and self-reliance today.
The objects of God’s judgments are not merely heretics, they are also hypocrites. Those whom God “gives over” to sin are not only atheists who have gone wholesale into idolatry, or those who reject the truth in apostasy, but also those who come close to God with their mouths, but whose hearts are far from Him.
Thus, Reformed churches and Reformedmen and women are also to be cautioned here. God may well judge the proudReformed man by allowing him to fall into adultery. God may chasten the Reformed church that exalts herself over others, as though she made herself to differ, with a flood of sexual offences. This was precisely Luther’s point. He speaks of those who “puff themselves up,” and “cannot come to the point of being gracious to sinners.” (Luther was fond of praying, “Help, O God, dear Lord and Savior, that we stay pious sinners and not become sainted blasphemers.”) God judges the God-denying sin of pride. With falls into sexual sin.
The lessons that we may take from the falls of many into sexual sins include the lesson of humility. My pride may be subdued by such a fall. God brings a man to his senses when He allows him to fall so deeply and shamefully. This is the goodness of God to him, because not to come to his senses would be worse.
Let all of us also learn humility with regard to our sinful natures. Becoming a believer, a Reformed believer, even a believer passionate about the faith and life of God’s people, does not diminish the evil of my sinful nature, or in any way moderate how vicious are the inclinations of my flesh. So we sing, paraphrasing Psalm 51: “I am evil, born in sin; thou desirest truth within” (see “Prayer of the Penitent” below). And we confess with Paul, “I know that in me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).
Let us hate both the sin that brings the judgment of God upon us, and the sins that bring us to our senses.
And let us love God alone, faithfully. Falling into sexual sins—unfaithfulness sexually—is fitting chastisement for us when we are unfaithful to Him.